For members


EXPLAINED: The rules around returning Christmas gifts in Switzerland

Whether it’s one tie too many, an ugly vase, a useless gadget, or even a partridge in a pear tree, you might want to bring some of the presents you received back to the store for a refund or exchange. Are such returns allowed in Switzerland?

Pretty wrapping can hide a useless Christmas gift. Photo by Clint Patterson on Unsplash
Pretty wrapping can hide a useless Christmas gift. Photo by Clint Patterson on Unsplash

Sure, some people feel guilty about returning a present they got from friends or family; after all, it’s the thought that counts and you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

But unless you actually got a longed-for horse with a good set of teeth, chances are you might not want to keep some of the items gifted to you — no matter how well-intentioned.

Can you just bring these objects back to the store where they were bought?

It depends.

Unless a retailer specifically stipulated during purchase that no returns or exchanges will be allowed — which is sometimes the case with deeply discounted or end-of-the-line merchandise — you should, in principle be able to do so.

However, here too some conditions are attached.

You must have a receipt or exchange voucher

A sales receipt is issued when the purchase is made and most retailers routinely offer vouchers allowing exchanges as well.

But if the item you want to return is a gift, you may not have the sales receipt, which means returning the present for a cash refund may be difficult. If however, you got the voucher along with the gift, then you can exchange it for something else or possibly get store credit for later use.

If you do have the proof of purchase, you should bring back the items within the pre-determined period of time — usually 30 days.

Also, the item must be in its original condition, that is, unworn and unused. In case of an electrical appliance that breaks after use, it will be refunded or exchanged according to conditions of its warranty.

What about online purchases?

Perhaps someone ordered a Christmas gift for you on the Internet and had it sent to you by post.

In this case, returns are less problematic: you have the right to send the merchandise back according to conditions outlined by the seller.

Usually, you can return anything that is undamaged and still in its original packaging for a full refund.

If the packaging has been opened, most Swiss online retailers will deduct a minimum amount of 10 percent. That’s because electronics stores can’t resell products for the full price if they have been opened.

What happens if package comes from abroad?

This is a very pertinent point because, as we already explained in a previous article, under the Swiss law it is possible to obtain a domain name ending in .ch, even though these companies are located abroad. This has proven to be misleading to many Switzerland-based customers, including, perhaps, the person who purchased the gift for you.

Unless specific exclusions apply — usually spelled out in the sales contract— you can send the items back. However, since they will be shipped abroad, you will have to pay higher charges than if you were mailing to a company in Switzerland.

READ MORE: Reader question: Under what conditions can I return a purchase to a store in Switzerland?

The Federal Consumer Affairs Bureau has more information about your rights to a refund.

So what’s the bottom line?

If you receive a gift with a sales receipt or exchange voucher, returns and exchanges should be easy.

The same applies to sending back merchandise that has not been tampered with but, you may have to pay shipping charges.

If neither option is feasible, you can always try to re-gift the unwanted item to someone else (after all, one person’s junk is another person’s treasure).

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For members


Which Swiss Christmas markets are opening in November?

The leaves haven’t totally fallen off the trees across Switzerland yet, but Christmas markets in some areas are already setting up their stalls. Where can you eat, drink, and be merry starting this week?

Which Swiss Christmas markets are opening in November?

Even though it’s still officially autumn in Switzerland, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, as the song says.

Towns big and small are preparing to celebrate the holiday season in — so far, at least — a pandemic-free environment. In fact, the festive mood makes it easy to forget that in 2020 markets were closed, and in 2021 some places required a Covid certificate to enter.

While most markets in Switzerland will open at the beginning of December to coincide with the start of the Advent on December 1st, some will be inaugurated this week and next.

This is an overview of where you can begin the Christmas season in November.

Lausanne, ‘Bô Noël’

Starting on Thursday November 17th, the Vaud capital will inaugurate small Christmas markets in various locations throughout the city:

  • Place Saint-François
  • Place Pépine
  • Arches du Grand-pont et place de l’Europe
  • Terrasse Jean-Monnet
  • Place Centrale
  • Esplanade de la Cathédrale
  • Esplanade du Flon

Various activities from Christmas shopping to eating, drinking, and entertainment for the young and old will be plentiful at all the sites.

Open: From November 17th to December 31st

Geneva, Jardin Anglais

The traditional market, located in the middle of a lakeside urban park, is opening on November 18th.

Like any Christmas market worthy of the name, it will feature an artisan market where you can purchase holiday decorations and other trinkets, as well as enjoy typical fare like mulled wine and raclette. (Christmas purists may argue that melted cheese is not really a ‘typical’ holiday dish, but you are, after all, in Switzerland).

Open: from November 18th to December 23rd

Geneva, Noël du Mont-Blanc

As a complement to the Jardin Anglais site, Geneva’s second Christmas market, on rue du Mont-Blanc, will open on November 24th.

As each year, it will feature a wide range of artisanal products and local specialities.

Open from November 25th to December 28th

A lit statue  ‘floats’ over a Geneva street at Christmas. Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Montreux (Vaud)

Scenically located along the shore of Lake Geneva, the “Montreux Noel” market is one of the country’s most famous Christmas fairs.

Attractions include Santa Claus / Father Christmas flying on his sled, as well as special activities inside the legendary Chillon Castle, located just a snowball away from the cite centre.

Open from November 18th to December 24th

Basel: Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz

Spread across two squares, Basel’s annual Christmas market – open from November 24th – is one of Switzerland’s largest and most picturesque.

About 200 booths offer an array of things traditionally associated with this holiday, from exquisite hand-made ornaments to regional delicacies.

Open from November 24th to December 23th.

Basel’s Old Town decorated with Christmas lights. Image by Christophe Schindler from Pixabay 

Zurich, several markets

Switzerland’s largest city has not one, not two, but FIVE Christmas fairs spread around town, all opening on November 24th: at Sechseläutenplatz, Old Town, Bahnhof, Münsterhof, and Werdmühleplatz.

They include attractions like a singing Christmas tree, one decorated with 7,000 crystals, along with gifts, decorations, food, and drink.

 Open: November 24th to December 23rd.